JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. –
A memorialization ceremony was held to honor a fallen Soldier with the renaming of an Army Reserve Center here Aug. 19, 2022.
Sgt. James J. Holtom was killed in service to his country during Operation Iraqi Freedom on Feb. 8, 2007. Prior to his deployment to Iraq in 2006, he was in his sophomore year at Boise State University, Idaho, studying engineering.
Holtom enlisted in the Army Reserve in 2003 as a general construction equipment operator. He was assigned to 3rd Platoon, Company A, 321st Engineer Battalion, in Boise as a vehicle commander and weapons gunner. The unit falls under the 321st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade here.
While deployed, the Wisconsin native served as a team leader and vehicle commander for a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle on a route clearance team. He participated in many route clearance patrols in the vicinity of Ramadi and Fallujah, Al Anbar Province, Iraq, from Sept. 2006 to Feb. 2007. On Feb. 7, 2007, Holtom’s unit was tasked to conduct route clearance ahead of elements of Marine Regimental Combat Team 6 to conduct rescue operations to recover crewmember remains on a downed Marine CH-47 helicopter northeast of Fallujah near the town of Karma. Holtom was the vehicle commander and spotter in the lead vehicle and accounted for six Improvised Explosive Devices during the patrol.
On Feb. 8, 2007, Holtom’s platoon was again tasked to conduct rout clearance operations back to the crash site. Again, Holtom’s vehicle took the lead. During the operation an IED detonated under the vehicle, killing Holtom and two others, and critically wounding another Soldier.
For his actions, Holtom was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
Anecdotes from Holtom’s father and those who served with him give a better idea of who this young man was at his core.
Holtom’s father David said that Jim’s brothers looked up to him, especially the two right after him in age. Like a lot of firstborns, Jim was a quiet, natural leader. His brothers could always count on him to know what to do. That leadership trait served him well in the Army Reserve.
According to those who served with him, Sergeant Holtom was normally a reserved leader who led by actions and deeds. It was obvious he had the right temperament to be a leader. During time spent at the mobilization station prior to deploying to Iraq, Holtom participated in a team land navigation course. His platoon sergeant and platoon leader walked up on his team as some of the Soldiers were excitedly discussing how to conduct the course. As Soldiers do, each was pressing his course of action. Holtom let each promote his proposal for a few minutes. Finally, he spoke up: “You both need to shut up and do what I tell you to do. That’s how we’re going to do it.” Hearing that, Holtom’s leadership knew that he had found his footing as a leader.
Holtom never complained even during the most mundane or challenging times. He rarely raised his voice, preferring to administer any admonishments in a more personal one-on-one manner. He was never boisterous, even during difficult moments. He was very vigilant when presented with new tasks. Holtom was an operator of equipment used for route clearance. He took great care to learn what to look for as the primary set of eyes in the vehicle and was very thorough while supervising the driver in outfitting and maintaining the vehicle while preparing for the next mission and at the end of each patrol.
As a leader serving this nation, Holtom showed through his words and actions he was the right person to lead patrols in Iraq. He died leading just such a patrol on Feb. 8, 2007.
Holtom was one of the more than 1 million service members who took part in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was, unfortunately, one of the nearly 4,500 service members who lost their lives during the war.